As a Memphis Grizzly, Rudy Gay faced off against George Karl and the Denver Nuggets in the Western Conference for years.
“I played against him a lot and I know what kind of system he likes,” Gay told the media in Karl’s first practice with the Kings. “Playing against it and actually being a part of it are two different things.”
“It’s a good offense for me. I think it’s great, we just have to buy into it,” he added.
Perhaps it was destiny, but after eyeing each other from afar, their pairing in Sacramento has been a harmonious marriage.
In twelve games under Karl, the Kings are 4-8. Yet Gay has elevated his offense to new heights. The small forward is scoring 23.8 points on 49.5 percent shooting and pulling down 2.2 offensive rebounds per game, which outpace career-highs. Gay is taking 18.2 field goal attempts per contest, nearly two more than before Karl joined the team, but the starter has avoided becoming a black hole by dishing 3.1 assists.
A quick look at his shot distribution with Karl below:
It is evident that Gay is on board with Karl and assistant coach Vance Walberg, since he has cut down on his midrange jumpers, a shot which is frowned upon in the dribble drive motion offense. The 28-year-old is taking only 21.1 percent of his total attempts within 10 and 19 feet, as opposed to 30.3 percent over the course of the season.
Instead, Gay has committed to attack to paint, and shoot more 3’s. The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder is taking 55 percent of his attempts between 10 feet and the hoop, after averaging 47.4 percent for the whole year.
Coming into the All-Star break, Gay took 3.1 triples per game on 37.4 percent shooting, but since Karl’s arrival, the forward is launching 3.8 treys per match with a blistering 45.7 percent success rate.
The difference may be Gay’s willingness to catch and shoot more often. With help from Ray McCallum and Andre Miller’s feeds, he’s increased his frequency of set shots, which the natural scorer is hitting at a 60 percent clip under Karl. Gay has reduced his pull-up jumpers significantly, to 26.1 percent of his total attempts from a season average of 37.8, while maintaining his accuracy there in the low 40’s.
Nevertheless, despite Gay’s early offensive surge, the wing has slightly regressed on defense. The lanky three held opponents to 1.9 percent below their shooting average prior to Karl’s hire, and has since become a minus defender everywhere but within six feet of the basket. Gay has allowed role players like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeMarre Carroll to have sensational scoring performances, but defense is an issue the whole team must address.
The Kings will take improvement wherever they can, so hopefully Gay’s newfound efficiency is something the team can count on moving forward. At the current pace, the Sacramento cornerstone may join DeMarcus Cousins, his partner-in-crime at the All-Star game next season.